Category: Holiday

Vacationising, PTO, whatever you call it, we all need it!

Bye bye Europe

My first visit was to northern France on a posh camping trip with my parents. We drove down, got the ferry across (to St.Malo I think), and then head to southern Brittany to a pre-erected tent with beds, a fridge, cooking equipment, table and chairs. It was warm, but a different kind of heat than I’d ever experienced a dry, crisp heat, different from the muggy humid heat of a Scottish summer. I was 15.

The next year we did the same, visiting different camp sites (but always with everything ready and waiting for us when we got there), and I also went to Ibiza for a fortnight. What a summer that was, five weeks of holidays!

Then it was southern Spain for many years, with my in-laws owning property in Nerja, and latterly Torrox. Cheap flights and accommodation, guaranteed sunshine, we took as much benefit of those times as we could.

After that my next country was Hungary, a visit to Budapest with friends, then Denmark and Copenhagen for a work conference, and more recently I took myself to Germany to visit Berlin and last year we headed to Sweden for a wonderful long weekend in Gothenburg.

It’s been a few days since the UK officially left the European Union. Brexit was voted for by the majority (a few years ago), and we have a political party who drove it home knowing it would allow them to retain power for a few more years at least.

Europe still exists, of course, but it’s different now. Well, not now, the trade agreements, the laws, the ratification and debate will take some time to come to decisions on some things so for a while nothing will change. Until slowly, the change begins.

I don’t know what those changes will be, it seems likely that we will end up paying more for things than we have in the past. It may mean it becomes cheaper to visit non-European countries, or prices travel out of the reach for many people. It may mean some of the things we have grown used to having are no longer available to us, be they products, services, or just cultural experiences.

I did not vote for Brexit.

I do not know what the future will hold, maybe it will all be fine.

But my real fear isn’t in the cost to me (although that fear is real and valid) but that this is one more step towards a more nationalistic view, the return to the sovereign state, the continued focused on southern England as the ‘UK’, and the slow eradication of all the wonderful regional differences that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland currently enjoy.

Brexit might be the best thing that has ever happened to the UK, for all citizens of the UK. I doubt it but I’m trying to remain open-minded. However it’s very very hard to do so when we are now governed by a group of people who I do not trust, and have no faith in to act in anything other than their own best interests. They are more interested in being IN power and retaining that power, than any of the responsibilities that come with that.

As Douglas Adams wrote:

The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.
To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

And here I falter. I am scared for the future. My future, your future; regardless of where you come from, where you now live, what you work as, what colour your skin is, what religion you follow, what people you are attracted to, what your disability is, how much money you earn.

And again I falter to find the words, and so I turn to others.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. —Abraham Lincoln

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. —Alice Walker

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. —George Orwell

In Scotland, of course, there is a different discussion, one driven by the hope for Independence, one revived by the outcome of Brexit, one which calls for a step away from the increasingly blusterous and dismissive noise of Westminster. I’m not sure what the future holds there either.

I’m not sure 2020 is going to provide many answers and this has been my issue all along, it started with the first Scottish Independence Referendum and burbled along with no small measure of bamboozled amazement in the run up to the Brexit vote and beyond.

I woke in a field in Glastonbury to the Brexit news. It sent a shock-wave through the festival that day, dominating the conversation with random strangers bumped into in bars, at stages, whilst eating food. What on earth happened and, more pertinently, what happens next?

And there it is, the question no-one could answer back then, and the one that no-one can answer today; What’s Next? How will things sit by the end of 2020? By the end of 2021? By the year 2030??

It all feels so reactionary, so short-sighted and blinkered and badly considered. No-one on either side can do little more than provide a brief commentary of guesses and blundering nonsense, sound-bites to placate the masses.

Perhaps my real fear is the growing realisation that, despite having million dollar budgets, thousands of workers, and surely no shortage of intelligence (somewhere), the people running the country have little to no idea how any of this will pan out. The growing realisation that all my adult life I’ve presumed that that was their job, to look at the bigger picture, look beyond today and tomorrow, and that they might act with a sense to the greater good, seems to proving false.

How naive.

Map of east coast USA

That was America

Back home after two weeks of travelling around parts of the East Coast of the USA, which went a bit like this…

We flew in to Stewart International Airport (courtesy of Norwegian Airlines who we recommend) we picked up our hire car and headed up to Framingham, just outside Boston.

The following day we spent wandering round the gorgeous city of Boston, doing nothing much except enjoying the sights and sounds of a new city. It really is a lovely place to stroll around, with a nice mix of old and new buildings and areas. Thankfully it was a little overcast, perfect for a day of walking around being a tourist. My second visit to Boston and I think it warrants a third, longer, visit in the future.

The next day we headed to Six Flags for some rollercoaster fun and WOW they didn’t half deliver! From the 77mph Superman, to the looping forwards then backwards beast that was Goliath, to the absolutely wonderfully terrifying Cyclone. I have no idea how much adrenaline was generated that day but every time I came off one of the rides my legs were shaking, AWESOME!!

The next day was a bit more relaxed, a wander round Springfield (no, not that one) visiting the enchanting Dr.Seuss museum, and the NBA Museum and Hall of Fame before we headed up to Provincetown in Cape Cod.

We were in Provincetown for one reason, to go kayaking and what a glorious day it was. We booked with Cape Kayaking and I’d highly recommend you do the same if you are ever in the area. A few hours spent pootling around the bay, looking at the horseshoe crabs, navigating channels through the reeds, with an informative, friendly, relaxed guide, it was wonderful and we will definitely be back.

Provincetown itself was delightful, in the throes of a post-Pride weekend it was all rainbow flags and banners, but with plenty of little restaurants and a nice beach location I can see why it’s so popular. Alas we only had a morning before we headed down the coast to Manhattan, New York.

Having never been to New York the entire time was magical. We visited the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Flatiron, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, the Guggenhiem, the Met, Bryant Park and more. We walked the Highline, stepped inside the Vessel, and drank in dive bars (hat tip the amazing Trailer Park, and the welcoming Nancy Whiskey). I loved every minute of busy madness, wandering street after street for block after block, never once feeling uncomfortable despite the sheer volume of people and noise.

We will be back, so it was nice to have a relaxed pace to a city break, rather than the usual mad dash of ‘must see places’ we just wandered around in various areas and saw whatever we saw.

And then it was on to Staten Island. A ferry trip past a big statue of a lady, and on to a family wedding. Then, all too soon, it was time to come home.

What a wonderful holiday, full of great food, plenty of booze, not to mention laughter and wonderful memories. I can’t WAIT to go back! Until then… where next?!

Holidays are coming

The flights are booked, I’ve already got my packing list started, and we’re sorting out what things we might do when we get there.

We fly in to New York, and then drive up to Boston for a day or so. Then we have a couple of days to pootle around Cape Cod, Providence, Hartford et al, before we head for Manhattan. A few days in the big apple and then on to Staten Island (for a wedding). So far we’ve got a day at Six Flags booked for some rollercoaster fun, an afternoon of kayaking in the lakes near Cape Cod, and plenty of time to wander and explore the towns we will be staying in before we head for the big apple. Bliss.

I have been in Boston before, I had a day to potter around before an evening flight. I did the duck boat tour along the river, with glorious autumn foliage on a beautiful clear day, I wander the city a little and I’m looking forward to having a bit more time to explore at a more leisurely pace.

I have never been to New York and, the closer it gets, (28 days to go!) the more excited I become.

This building excitement isn’t quite what I expected though, as New York has never really been on a list of places I wanted to visit. I’m not sure why, probably because it kinda feels familiar already, and kinda because it’s a massive city which will be rammed full of tourists and I can’t stand tourists even though I’ll be one too.

Yet as we start to figure out what attractions to visit, what places to eat, and what weird and wonderful things we can try out, I can feel the excitement building. We’ll be visiting Central Park, getting on the NY Subway, blasting down the river to see the Statue of Liberty via speedboat, and crossing the river on the Staten Island ferry. There will be hotdog vendors on the streets. We will visit Katz Deli and I’ll order ‘whatever she’s having’, just like a million tourists before me, there will be Times Square, Madison Square Gardens, pretzels, pastrami on rye (hold the mayo), yellow cabs, and I’ll likely spend most of the time remembering scenes from movies and being amazed by just how big those skyscrapers are.

New York exists in my brain as a fiction, a place only read about, or seen on screen. That is the New York I know and it’s a mish-mash of names and places and cultural references that, the more I think about it, the more it starts to overwhelm and the higher my excitement climbs.

Not only that but this is my first proper holiday in a couple of years, the last was a few days in Barcelona in March 2018.

I cannot wait.

The day of boxing

It’s over.

Another year and you’ve survived Christmas Day. Well done!

For some Christmas can be an ordeal, a day to be gotten through. For others it’s a day to savour and enjoy. Whatever type of Christmas Day you had, it’s over now.

Boxing Day is a day for leftovers if you have them (trifle for breakfast!) and lazing around in front of the TV. Maybe you’ll go for a walk, maybe you’ll visit some friends, or maybe you’ll simply relax and enjoy the fact that the ‘big day’ has passed once more. I’ll be doing all of the above; trifle for breakfast, then a walk to a friends house.

However you spend these festive days, I hope you are well and can find some happiness and peace.

And whilst I remember, thank you for visiting this odd little blog, for reading and commenting, and sharing your thoughts on the nonsense I post here.

But for now, bugger off, enjoy yourself, and be good to you and yours.

Rotterdam or anywhere

I need some time off work. The last week I had off was in June and whilst life as a contractor means no worky = no money, I know I need some downtime.

So I’ve booked the middle week of October off and I’m planning to try and get away somewhere.

Where? Well that’s the thing, I don’t really care where, I only really care about how much it’ll cost me. I’m thinking a 3-4 night city break (mid-week) and so far places like Prague and Budapest are at the top of the list (and, oddly Milan, cheap flights FTW).

However, part of me is tempted to wait until the first weekend (the 15th) and then try and book a last minute deal but where to and, more pertinently, how do I find the best deal?

Here’s the thing with most holiday (flight + accommodation) booking websites, they presume you know where you want to travel from, where you want to travel to, and the days you want to travel.

Me?

I don’t mind if I fly from Glasgow International, Glasgow Prestwick (what a misnomer!), or Edinburgh Airport.

I don’t mind where I end up (the main limitation being cost).

I want to spend 3/4 nights but I don’t mind when those nights are as long as they are between the 15th and the 23rd October.

So my criteria is limited to cost, a range of dates, and a range of departure locations.

I generally do not mind where I end up. I will find things to do when I get there (or do nothing but read and lounge around).

And I refuse to believe I am alone in wanting something like this but I’ll be damned if I can find anywhere that offers this option.

Closest option I can find is through Skyscanner which at least lets you look for flights to ‘Anywhere’ and sorts them by price. So I’ll start there and see where I end up I guess (here’s hoping I at least get out of Glasgow!).

Back from Tunisia

We did done a holiday!

We had a few simple criteria for our holiday. It needed to be under £500 each, it needed to be somewhere hot and sunny, and ideally it needed to be all inclusive.

After various online searches, we had it narrowed down to a week in Cyprus, or a week in Tunisia. Icelolly.com helped keep the price to just under £400 pp and we ended up picking Tunisia as it was a bit different (and Kirsty has been to Cyprus before).

It’s safe to say we lucked out and had a fantastic holiday!

We stayed at a hotel that was built in the 1970s, built in the style of an old Medina, mostly two stories tall and sprawling over the area of a small town, it was Tunisian to the core. Driving past other hotels in the area (Yasminne Hammamet) and I have to admit it was nice to be in one of larger hotels (the more typical Costa del Sol style, 6-8 floors with boxy rooms).

The room upgrade helped too, of course.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Tunisian but I’d heard good things about the country and the people. I wasn’t proven wrong. The Tunisian people were friendly and, with a few words of faltering Arabic, always ready to help with a smile and a laugh.

The hotel itself was great, the staff efficient and an enthusiastic ‘animation’ team meant there were plenty of activiteis for us… to largely ignore (we did a bit of archery but our focus was to be lazy!), the food was great and well enough varied that you never got bored, and the sun did it’s bit and for the most part shone brightly, keeping things at toasty 28C or so (we think we topped 30C one of the days).

I ate camel steak, bartered in the souk (and no doubt still got ripped off), visited Carthage and Sidi Bou Said, had a wonderful Turkish Bath and massage, and did a whole lot of lazing around and chilling out.

In fact the only negatives were the security queues at the Enfidha airport, but such is life.

I’m back home now, feeling properly relaxed and upbeat, with a reasonable tan (we were only there for 7 days) and a desire to go back again. The resort itself is very similar to Andalucia, there is a Moorish influence to be found, and a similar climate. Learn a few basic Arabic phrases and don’t get put off by the sellers in the souk, it’s part of the fun to chat with them and avoid getting dragged into their stores ‘just for a look’.

I’d happily, highly, recommend it for a sunshine break. Yes, it was a package holiday, but with excellent customer service, it really did feel like we got a lot of value for our money.

Some of our memories of Tunisia.

Roll on the holidays

For various historical and religious reasons, none of which I pay much heed to, I will be on holiday from this Friday through to Tuesday the 3rd of May. Given that it’s only costing me three days from my holiday allowance, then it’s almost like a free holiday.

Part of that time will involve a trip to Skye, which I’m really looking forward to as I’ve never been that far north on the west coast of Scotland. My camera is primed, the USB stick of moosick is full (8GB of very random tuneage), and Kirsty and I are really looking forward to it.

After that it will be a lazy time for the most part, a well deserved break and a chance to properly recharge after a shitty start to the year and, if I’m really lucky, there may also be alcohol and debauchery in there somewhere as well!

In other news, my Mum is doing well, making good progress day by day. I’m really noticing big differences everytime I visit. Other than that, I’ve finally gotten my car back! I’ve not had it since the 7th February and it will need to go back in for a wee bit more work but that can wait a while.

Oh yeah and, very soon, my little sister will turn 30. I was flicking through some old photos last night, from when she was a bairn and still can’t quite believe she’s SO VERY OLD ALREADY! 😉

Lego Advent

Mumsy knows me well, she knows I am still a big kid and so she bought me a Lego Advent calendar.

It’s AWESOME! (if somewhat random…).

Each window has a little lego kit to build, all of which will come together and, well, I’m not really sure they WILL all come together, like I said, it’s all a bit random…

And looks like this:

And no, I don’t know what everything is but I don’t care. I got to play with Lego every day!

Say Cheese!

Well not you obviously, and no, before anyone asks I didn’t JUST take photos of the scenery, there are photos of family too I just don’t upload them often.

Here then, the best of the 100 or so photos I took.

Home again, home again

I’m currently operating on about 4.5hrs sleep having landed earlier this morning and suffering the return of the 6.30 alarm.

Spain was warm, sunny for the most part, a little misty some mornings, blowing a gale for two of the days and we saw a beautiful lightning storm rage over the Mediterranean.

I read books (more on those later), drank beer, sang at the karaoke (a rare event, I was quite spectacularly drunk mind you), sunbathed and did pretty much bugger all for the entire week.

I couldn’t half do with a siesta right now though.

Aside from a vigorous can of cider erupting all over my sister on the plane on the way there, and my sister-in-law deciding to get herself a tattoo there isn’t a huge amount to report. Like I said, the sky was mostly blue, the sun was mostly hot, the beer was always cold. Same as it always is.

It was good to get back to my bed last night though, and I’m REALLY looking forward to spending a bit longer in it tonight! Only a few thousands RSS feeds to read, a handful of photos to upload and, if I can be bothered, I’ll jot down my thoughts on the books I read.

Enough about me though, how are you? Aside from the political goings-on (anyone want to own up to voting in the BNP? No I didn’t think so), what did I miss?